Yesterday was the momentous return of baseball to Washington DC. After a hard fought political and economic battle, Washington DC opened it’s first major league baseball game in over thirty years. My company bought season tickets, and I claimed the Washington Nationals Inaugural home game for Sarah and I.
Sarah, believing that if you’re going to do something you ought to do
it well, kept the box scores for the entire game on pen and paper.
Several of the men around me, whose wives were at home, were all
envious as she proudly deciphered the age-old hieroglyphics of box
scores and dutifully noted them each inning.
This wasn’t an exercise in futility, as with a little practice we could
see at a glance who was able to hit off the Nat’s opening pitcher Livan
Hernandez, and who could not. When trying to work through the game
theory exercises that pitchers do for every batter ("What does he want
me to pitch? What does he think I’ll pitch? How can I force him to
make a bad split-second decision to swing at something he shouldn’t?"),
it helped to know the history each batter had at their previous at bats
during the game.
In case you haven’t figured it out, pitchers are the poker players of
baseball. Nobody else gets to make as many decisions that are as many
levels deep as your pitcher, taking into account all the things a poker
player does when playing a hand, including:
- stack size (score of the game)
- position (where you are in the inning, how many outs)
- history (what have you pitched to this player previously)
The game was absolutely perfect for an Inaugural. The first pitch was
a strike, the Nats committed no errors and picked up five runs, and not
until Hernandez’s arm gave out in the eighth inning did it look like
the Arizona Diamondbacks might actually score anything.
I find it unfathomable that people started leaving in the 7th inning.
Yes, we were winning 5-0, but the late innings are where your pitchers
arms start to give out. You could see exactly where it happened, as
Hernandez struggled to put away an Arizona batter with a full count,
Hernandez was unable to throw an effective strike. The Arizona batter
kept fouling away and you knew that eventually he was going to miss the
strike zone or the batter was going to connect. Eventually he got
walked, and with a later on-base and home run, Arizona started a
too-late-too-little rally to finish the game 5-3, Nats.
Bleacher seats are only $8, so I hope you get a chance to come out and see the Nats play this season.